Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell

On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital. 

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn baby.

I stared down at the smudgy tabletop, my eyes smarting, my chest cramping with the sudden pang of yearning to be more than a day-tipper in achievement country, to accomplish something concrete and easily validated rather than merely refrain from doing something fucked up.

Etched On Me had me it’s grips on me from the start of the book. It gives an unflinching look into issues such as mental health, self harm, sexual abuse, as well as the failures on the healthcare system and the bright spots, such as the character Gloria, trying to help from within the limits. The author is blatantly honest and the subject matter mentioned will take you on an emotional journey with the main character Lesley. The reader will genuinely root for her and pray that she makes it through her obstacles. You immediately want her to win in the beginning when she finally gets the courage to get help and escape from her abuser. She has to constantly deal with a part of herself that tells her she’s nothing. With every set back she experiences and every time she picks herself up you feel what she feels and her experiences become your own. This book leaves you emotionally raw and open will linger with you after you have read the very last page. I give this a 5/5 and absolutely recommend it for a read.

Searching For Sky by Jillian Cantor

Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.

“Sky,” River whispers in my hair now. I’m almost asleep, my mother and Helmut so close that I can almost touch them. River’s voice is hazing and raw, and I wonder if he’s almost asleep, too. “Hmmm,” I whisper back.
“I saw something today.”
“What?” I ask him. I am so full and tired that I can barely move my lips to make a sound. I think about my mother’s bracelet, the way the pink shes feel cool and smooth against the bars flesh of my arm. “A boat,” River says, just as I am on the cusp of dreaming. “I think I saw a boat.”

Searching for Sky was slow moving for me at first. In the beginning it actually reminded me of a watered down version of The Blue Lagoon if they had found civilization so it took a little while for me to really open up to the story. I’m pleased that I stuck with it because it was a really beautiful coming of age tale but there were quite a few things that feel short for me and the made the book a miss. Sky is the main character and her best friend and only person in her world is River. When they are “rescued” from their island they are thrust into a world that is so opposite from what they’ve known their entire lives. Sky is desperate to go back to her island and having a hard time adjusting to this new life with a new name (Megan) everyone insist on calling her. All she wants is for River and her to return home. As she begins to learn more about her mother and the reasons they ended up on the island her life takes a devastating turn. The things she learns and experience are so heartbreaking and you want nothing more than for her to find her way. I found myself taking the journey with her and felt her anger, frustrations, and sadness. I found myself going back and fourth as to what I wanted to happen for her. Her whole character is based on the fact that she lived on island with no contact from civilization and there was no real depth to her.  Her ability to showcase the culture shock that Sky experienced when going to California was hilarious as Sky leaned the proper way to use the bathroom but I felt like the author could have done more. As a reverse dystopia it feel really short me in that sense. I did like how the author gradually showed how Sky became more and more desensitized to her new surroundings and how she became stuck between being Sky and being Megan.

From the small amount that we eventually learn about River I was really sad for him. I think his story and experiences would’ve been more interesting to read and the book would’ve benefited from being told by both of their perspectives. Overall, it was an alright read for me. I think I ruined it by expecting too much from the story beforehand. I would it give it  2/5 rating. This is definitely a book for 12+ year olds. They would really get the most out of the story.

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Panic began as so many things in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer and there was nothing else to so.

Panic turned out to be a nice surprise. This was honestly a book I usually would’ve passed up and I’m glad I didn’t. It was a very realistic account of the type of things teenagers living in a poor small town do. The amazingly developed characters really make the story. In the beginning the story moves at a slow place as you begin to get the know the characters and the reasons for playing Panic. For Heather, one of the main narrators, it a spilt decision driven by a broken heart. That moment where you do something crazy after finding out bad news. As the story progresses and her life starts going on a different path she really grows up by the of the book. She blossoms and realizes her future is not hopeless like she thought it was. She just needed something to believe in. The second narrator Dodge is driven by revenge. I totally understood Doge and his need for justice. He lost something precious and wanted someone to pay. Secondary characters  Natalie and Bishop really add to the plot and the friendships between the characters were portrayed very realistically. There was jealousy, love, betrayal and moments where they faced a shift in friendships as well. All the things that a part of teenage relationships. As for Panic itself it didn’t really get good until about midway through the book when the stakes really get high. This book is actually a few different books in one. Heather’s story is more of coming of age. Dodge’s story is more of a revenge is not so sweet. It has despair, anger and just the psychological affects of growing up poor. Overall it was a really good read and the type of story where anyone can empathize with one of the characters. I recommend this book and would give it a 4/5.